My last preview for Deus Ex found me creeping around the twin hindrances of embargo restrictions and an innate desire to not spoil the game's plot-heavy opening. In today's write-up I'll be describing a slightly different type of tippy-toeing, as I give my impressions of Adam Jensen's proper mission – an assignment that sees him sneaking through a Sarif manufacturing plant that's been seized by terrorists. I'll do my best to avoid major spoilers, but be warned that I will be delving deeper into specific events this time around.
Jensen's first true field assignment coincides with his first day back at work after the violent events that conclude the intro sequence. Before being deployed to the troubled facility in Detroit, I get a chance to explore the Sarif building he works in. As with the on-rails tour of the pre-credits sequence, the Sarif offices are a goldmine of subtle detail, but now I have the luxury of direct control. While the immediate goal is to get upstairs and receive a briefing from Frank Pritchard – the snarky technical wizard, who serves as your handler for the mission – there's plenty of time and opportunity to nose around.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on Adam's return and his new, mechanically-augmented appearance. I manage to sneak up on a colleague who's fiercely questioning whether I'm still up for the job as Sarif's head of security. This provides my first experience of the dialogue system, offering a choice between a soothing and explanatory response, or one in which I scathingly show him who's boss. I opt for the latter, and my hapless critic receives a fiery tongue-lashing. "I am ADAM JENSEN, and I have mechanical arms, you big knob cheese!" Well okay, that's not actually what Adam says. The dialogue is a tad more subtle than that, but his response still makes me feel like a badass.
I stumble across a couple of other neat finds at the Sarif building: a hidden note at the end of a lengthy air vent suggests some kind of optional side-quest - one that I don't have time to investigate - while a trip to somewhere I'm not supposed to go results in an amusing nod-and-wink to the first Deus Ex. Before long, however, I'm in the back of a futuristic helicopter thing, en route to the beleaguered factory in Detroit.
My initial attempts at heroism don't go too well. My prior experiences with the game have taught me to proceed with caution, but for a while this trepidation results in me crawling around corners like a terrified wimp. Then I accidentally end up wasting one of my most precious toys: for demo purposes, I've been allowed to pick a few of the high-end Augmentations that Adam will normally unlock later in the game (you slowly find the relevant mod-currency as the story progress, so at this point you'd usually be a barebones mecha-hero). Earlier I blew most of my upgrades on the super-sexy Claymore attack I first saw at E3 last year. Unfortunately, it's only a matter of minutes before I then hit the trigger by mistake, pointlessly spuffing my steel balls all over a harmless wall. All of this happens before I've even reached the first of the naughty terrorists, I should add.
Thankfully, things pick up as soon as I'm confronted with a genuine threat. The outer area of the Detroit facility consists of a sizeable courtyard, watched over by a smattering of guards. Careful exploration uncovers a spread of paths through to the inner buildings. You can try to take the guards down one by one (a risky tactic, even with Adam's skills), time your way past them, or find a course that bypasses them altogether. The options are familiar, but they're presented in a way that feels pleasingly organic. The level design even manages to do the old "shift the crates about to open up a new route" dance without seeming forced, or even clichéd. I eventually find a way into the main building via the roof, following a tipoff from Pritchard over the comms.
Inside the building, it's distinctly trickier to make clean progress. I'm only playing on the normal difficulty, but even so the guards can bring me down with just a few shots if they catch sight of me. Adam has his own weapons, too. Creeping up to a back-turned foe allows for a flashy takedown manoeuvre. These attacks drain the energy supply that fuels Adam's augmentations, but they've very useful. You can opt for a lethal or non-lethal approach, but either way the result is the same: the perspective shifts from a first-person to a third-person view, and Adam eliminates his victim with style - knocking them out with brutal efficiency, or skewering them with the blades that slide out of his arms.